Passed a bit of a milestone this weekend. The Rub Rails are on, and they constitute the last pieces of wood permanently attached to these boats. No more. The basic boat part is done. Whoohoo!
There’s still a floor deck to make for each boat, but those lift out for cleaning and remain separate pieces, so, for celebration purposes, I’m not counting those. By all accounts, too, they’re a real pain to make, so I’ll likely save them for last.
Rub Rails (also called Sheer Guards, Doryman tells me) are another example of how things that look simple are not simple at all. I thought the whole process could be done in a morning – they’re just simple strips of wood, right? – but this little task took all weekend, and I didn’t finish until 2 a.m. last night.
Rub Rails are typically just half-round strips of hardwood, and that’s all these are. Back when I was leaving the option open to finish the hulls bright, I needed to cover some low screw holes that wouldn’t be covered by the usual 3/4” strip. I came up with a two part molding, using a thin but wider flat strip behind the half round, and that covered the screws perfectly. Trouble is, I liked how it looked. Even after deciding for sure to paint the bottoms, I still liked the extra shadow lines and detail. Seemed like a really nice touch. No big deal to add them, I figured – they’re just flat strips of wood.
So here’s the problem:
I don’t have anything left that’s 14 feet long, either for the Rub Rails or the backing strips. That means scarfing 16 pieces together in pairs to get the 8 long pieces needed. Oh, and nothing on hand is the right dimensions, and nothing is already half round. So all 16 pieces have to be ripped, then planed, then half of them shaped with a router, and each pair scarfed together. The forward ends join the bow stems at complicated angles, too, which have to be cut carefully. And they bend in funny ways – just enough that it took a heat gun to coax an upward curve into each pair at the stern quarter, where too much manual pressure on the fresh scarfs seemed a bad idea. And, since I plan to leave this trim work bright, all the joints have to be clean and tight, and the screw holes countersunk and plugged. That’s 48 holes to drill, and 48 plugs to cut.
Yeah, they’re just simple strips of wood. After two days of work, it was 8 o’clock last night before I could even start installing them. This is why Dave Lucas paints his boats, and he kindly reminded me of this on Saturday.
The scarfing went pretty well. The belt sander made quick work cleaning up the cuts made with a pull saw, and sanding the mating ends clamped together at the same time insures a perfect fit. In the photo above, I did a quick dry fit test before sanding off the wood hairs.
Ratchet straps, hung from the ceiling, served as extra hands, and this worked great. They could be adjusted precisely to hold the long floppy strips of wood at just the right angle. This was particularly useful when the pieces were coated with epoxy, keeping them from slapping epoxy on everything until enough screws were in place to make them self-supporting, when the free ends could be held in place with clamps. Couldn’t have done it single-handed otherwise.
Once all was ready and laid out in place, it took about 5 hours of messy work in a bunny suit to attach them. The joint between the hull and the wider base strip got a heavy coat of thickened epoxy to fill the gaps and get a good seal. The really messy part was coating all the mating surfaces with epoxy before sandwiching the pieces together, then working with them from front to back with one drill for pilot holes and another for driving in screws. Couldn’t stop to take pictures during any of that. There was just enough time to get a side done before the epoxy kicked off and became too thick to brush on. All the photos following photos were taken after installation was complete.
Overall, they turned out pretty well; better than hoped, given my crude skills. Tomorrow night the plugs can be cut off, then all sanded down and cleaned up. Tonight I’ll just get some sleep.
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